Ohioans prepare for July 4th travel despite higher gas prices

Traffic on I75 through Dayton is expected to pick-up as the 4th of July holiday approaches next weekend. Jim Noelker/Staff

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Traffic on I75 through Dayton is expected to pick-up as the 4th of July holiday approaches next weekend. Jim Noelker/Staff

A record 1.9 million Ohioans plan to hit the road for Independence Day weekend, according to the AAA, but they face higher prices for gas, rental cars and hotels.

“Travel is in full swing this summer, as Americans eagerly pursue travel opportunities they’ve deferred for the last year-and-a-half,” said Kara Hitchens, AAA spokeswoman. “We saw strong demand for travel around Memorial Day and the kick-off of summer, and all indications now point to a busy Independence Day to follow.”

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The interest in travel continues as COVID-19 restrictions have been rolled back in the past month. However, travelers haven’t rushed back to the airports just yet. Air travel is only expected to reach 82.8% of pre-pandemic levels, according to AAA data, with about 73,000 Ohio travelers looking to fly to vacation destinations. .

About 95% of Independence Day travel will be to local campgrounds and parks by car, but travelers should be aware of gas prices that continue to inch higher.

The national average for gas on Monday was $3.09 a gallon, but that could increase as the holiday approaches as the industry tries to recover from the pandemic, said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.

“A lot of the reason why prices are so much higher here in the last six months and how dramatically they’ve gone up is because of imbalances induced by COVID-19,” he said. “But now as we come out of recovery, the balance between supply and demand has shifted, and demand is recovering far faster than supply. And that has pushed up oil prices significantly.”

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The Ohio average gas price on Monday was $2.96, which is a penny over the peak average for regular gas in 2019. In Dayton, GasBuddy.com showed prices ranging from $2.87 to $3.15 on Monday afternoon.

Ohio gas prices operate in a cyclical fashion, which DeHaan said is another reason the prices might surge around July 4 but isn’t because of the holiday itself.

“Stations will all raise their price at the same time on one day and then prices will start to inch down for seven to 12 days, and then they’ll hike back up,” he said. “It’s likely that we see one of those again happen where prices shoot up.”

Travelers preparing to rent a car will find that daily rental rates have increased 86% to $166 per day. Car rentals also are in short supply as companies try to rebuild their inventory that was sold off during the pandemic.

Hotel prices also have jumped with mid-range hotel rates increasing between 32% and 35%, with average nightly rates ranging between $156 and $398.

Travelers don’t appear to be discouraged, despite fluctuating prices.

“Higher gas prices won’t deter road trippers this summer,” said Hitchens. “Though prices will remain above $3 a gallon, travelers are likely to look for more free activities or eat out less, but still take their vacations as planned.”

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